Two recent cases serve to highlight the conflict between transgender rights and a society’s duty of care towards little children and vulnerable teenagers; in the first a seven-year-old boy was caused “significant emotional harm” by a mother who insisted he was a girl, and custody was transferred to the father by Mr Justice Hayden in the High Court. The second case involves a fourteen year-old girl whose parents feel coerced into treating as the boy she identifies as, for fear that she will be taken into care by social services if they don’t.
At first glance, these cases seem very different. What connects them is that the agencies, professionals and social workers involved unanimously label these kids ‘trans’ without question. The little boy is a girl, the teenage girl is a boy. The mother in the first case is behaving in the correct way, the parents in the second are in need of re-education.
The lack of protection of a little boy from harm by the very agencies meant to protect him cannot be assumed to be irrelevant in the case of a teenage girl who is at risk of hormone treatment within a year if encouraged in a trans identity, as her father points out:
“Pushing a child in a direction when they’ve only just started believing in this I believe is potentially detrimental and I don’t want my child to go through something and then ten years later say “why did you allow me to do that?””
“…but with the way the social workers are pushing the situation we believe that in six months to a year she could already be on hormone treatment and unable to decide for herself because of the way the social worker is handling the situation.”
The stakes are high in both cases. A blanket policy of affirming a child’s “preferred gender” leaves all children unprotected from what is an untested idea, whether it is promoted by a parent or transgender support organisations and social services.
It would be a mistake to assume that the mother in the first case was a monster, giving us leave to dismiss this example as a one-off, unrelated to the issue of early transition of children generally. Experiencing mental health difficulties, as this mother has, doesn’t preclude her from being a good mother, nor does having “strong opinions” or a “forceful personality.”
Dr Kate Hellin, a Consultant Clinical Psychologist who undertook an assessment of both parents, clarified that the mother did not suffer from any disorder of personality or psychiatric condition. Dr Hellin’s portrayal is sympathetic and relatable; we are told that when stressed and distressed the mother becomes “controlling, forceful and antagonistic. This reflects her underlying anxiety. She is actually very frightened and upset.”
Neither is it unusual for a parent to find it hard to perceive a child as a “separate person with his/her own identity, wishes and volition.” The “enmeshed or fused nature of the relationship” between this mother and child is not healthy but neither is it, in itself, necessarily abusive. Separating from a child and learning to let go can be difficult especially for parents who have only one child.
Nevertheless, this mother’s behaviour was worrying enough for several reports to be made to social services, including from the NHS, the local Housing Dept and the school as well as anonymous referrals. Concerns were raised about both the mother’s mental health and the fact that she was dressing her son in girls’ clothes and was insisting he was transgender. The abusive aspect of this mother’s treatment of her son was the extent to which she forced her own views on him; her insistence that he was the girl she obviously wanted him to be and the complete lack of boundaries which apparently led to inappropriate intimacy and information about surgical transition.
Dr Hellin described the mother as “locked into a rigid and unshakeable belief structure” and the judge concurs:
“I consider that M has caused significant emotional harm to J in her active determination that he should be a girl. I find that she has overborne his will and deprived him of his fundamental right to exercise his autonomy in its most basic way. Whether J chooses to present as a girl or not, ought to be his choice. This is not a case about gender dysphoria, rather it is about a mother who has developed a belief structure which she has imposed upon her child.”
It is clear that this belief structure was shared by the Local Authority and social services:
“…it is striking that the Local Authority had moved into wholesale acceptance that J should be regarded as a girl. Once again, I make no apology for repeating the fact that J was still only 4 years of age. The conclusions of the report speak of J by use of the feminine pronoun. There was no independent or supportive evidence that J identified as a girl at all, indeed there was a body of material that suggested the contrary. The cry for investigation went unheeded”
The problem comes when a controlling parental personality which is over-identified with the child collides with transgender advocacy services. How far would this mother have gone in her belief without the support and encouragement she received from the charity Mermaids, together with validation from a clinical psychologist and the collusion of social services? The mother may have been deluded but her fantasy was stoked and reinforced over a long period of time.
How is it that a charity such as Mermaids, which claims to support trans and gender-variant young people, not only failed to recognise that this mother was abusing her child, but enabled and encouraged that abuse for a period of three years? What needs to be acknowledged in this case, if lessons are to be learned, is that transgender doctrine in itself is a rigid and unshakable belief system which the mother fitted into seamlessly, rendering her controlling and abusive behaviour invisible. To Mermaids, her behaviour was normal.
The case therefore also raises questions of how far a young child’s developing ‘identity’ can ever be free from parental influence and whether the difference between ‘validating’ a child’s immature cross-sex identity and forcing an identity onto a child is just a matter of degree.
The judge goes some way to acknowledging the way that this belief system has become impossible to challenge:
“Transgender equality has received a great deal of attention in recent times. I believe that in this case the profile and sensitivity of the matters raised by the mother blinded a number of professionals from applying their training, skills and, it has to be said, common sense. They failed properly to investigate M’s assertions, in part I suspect, because they did not wish to appear to be challenging an emerging orthodoxy in such a high profile issue.”
The judge doesn’t seem to be aware that the professionals involved would have invariably received Equalities training in transgender issues, which would have taught them that “affirming a child’s preferred gender” is non-negotiable. They therefore would have been applying their training in this case, preventing them from using their common sense and replacing it with a fear of being accused of denying the existence of a protected category of people.
This is the dilemma when children whose identities are still immature and developing are included in a legally protected identity category of people.
The judge in this case cannot be dismissed as ignorant of transgender issues, having of his own volition read the government’s ‘Transgender Equality’ report and through his experience in the Family Division:
“It is important that such children are listened to and their views afforded respect but, to my mind, they are ill served by premature labelling. What they require, as F has so capably demonstrated, is the opportunity to develop their identity in which ever way it evolves. J was not only deprived of that space and opportunity by his mother, he was pressed into a gender identification that had far more to do with his mother’s needs and little, if anything, to do with his own.”
What the judge may not be aware of is that his sensible understanding of children’s need for space and opportunity to develop their identities is denied by the doctrine of affirmation, which fixes a child’s belief that they are in fact the opposite sex. Allowing a child space and opportunity to develop their identities is exactly what transgender orthodoxy does not do.
This is true whether or not the child him or herself expresses cross-sex identity and no matter how old the child. An adolescent is no more capable than a little child in truly understanding the reality of a transsexual identity and lifestyle, especially when the reality of changing sex is covered up by use of the term “transgender.”
When you have only one fixed “correct” model of understanding a child’s behaviour (“if she says she’s a boy, she’s a boy”) then the individual child is lost to an ideology. The judge’s observations about the mother’s dispassionate view of her own child will be true of everyone else who believes the orthodoxy: transgender organisations, psychologists, professional services and child support agencies:
“However what struck me forcibly, both then and indeed at this final hearing, was that M spoke of J only in the somewhat opaque and convoluted argot of social work and psychology. She offered an impressive, intense and highly articulate evaluation of the problems faced by children with gender dysphoria but she conveyed no sense of J’s personality, temperament or enthusiasms, notwithstanding frequently being encouraged to do so. Repeatedly she struck me as a professional witness giving evidence about somebody else’s child.”
If there was any doubt about the rigid belief system of transgender orthodoxy, it is revealed in the reaction to the report from trans activists who continue to insist that this little boy is actually a girl. Mermaids were first off the mark with the inevitable accusation of transphobia, the tried and tested method of ensuring no one dares to speak up about any aspect of child transition.
This was followed by a Facebook statement accusing the judge of prejudice and calling the judgment a “disaster,” “deeply and profoundly shocking” and “with no actual basis in truth.” Under this post, Mermaids reveal that they have been ordered to stay away from the child in question:
A petition was then started by Fox Fisher, a transgender activist closely associated with Mermaids, which begins with these words:
The petition was promoted by high-profile members of the trans community such as Paris Lees, helping it to attract, to date, over 7,500 signatures:
Petition. Please sign. Support this loving mother and daughter separated by a bitter and transphobic custody battle: https://t.co/sQm06IXxPo
— Paris Lees (@ParisLees) October 26, 2016
This is not the considered response we would expect of a child-support charity but a howl of outrage from a community thwarted in their desire to claim a child as one of their own.
In the case of the fourteen year-old girl, social workers refer to her as a boy in official documents, have promised her she can change her name at school and told the parents they need to talk to some charities and organisations who are “specialists in this field” – which means transgender organisations like Mermaids. When the “specialists” will only validate a trans identity, all these children will be set on the one path towards hormones and surgery. The reaction to the judge’s report above shows clearly why no child protection agencies dare go against the transgender lobby.
It’s time we separated the political campaign for identity rights from the rights of children to impartial care and protection which is not tied to any ideology. No child support group, psychotherapist or protection agency should be operating from one rigid and unshakable belief system, to do so is to abdicate all adult responsibility for the protection of vulnerable children and adolescents.